Paradigm Johannesburg: control and insurgency in South African urban development

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Howe, L. B. (2018). Paradigm Johannesburg: control and insurgency in South African urban development. International Development Planning Review, 40(4).

Publication type

Article in Scientific Journal


Urban development in contemporary South Africa generates opportunities for the reproduction of inequality, as well as chances to increase the social justice of the urban landscape. This article juxtaposes two current developments in greater Johannesburg to illustrate the contrast between 'insurgent' bottom-up planning approaches and top-down 'control' policies characteristic of development in Africa today. While top-down megaprojects often promoted by governments can marginally reduce poverty, they fail to address the complex networks of human interaction necessary for underprivileged populations to negotiate their everyday lives. The narrative of control and insurgency explored in Johannesburg therefore highlights the diversity of approaches the underprivileged employ to ensure claims to space and opportunity. It also emphasises the need for innovative approaches attuned to this urban majority rather than 'grand visions' that effectively exclude them from the processes of city-making. The article concludes with analysis of several current initiatives that attempt to address this urban majority from the top and the bottom, reinforcing the need to incorporate insurgent tactics in redressing inequality.


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